Why Alligator Attacks in South Carolina Were on the Rise in 2022

Written by Nixza Gonzalez
Published: January 24, 2023
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South Carolina went for years without having many alligator attacks. Then, in 2022, there were multiple fatal alligator attacks in the state. Alligators are not animals to be messed with. They are apex predators that camouflage themselves in the water and use their strength to overcome prey. So it just makes sense to stay out of gator-infested water in South Carolina or anywhere else.

Keep reading to find out why alligator attacks were on the rise in South Carolina during 2022.

Are There Many Alligators in South Carolina?

While South Carolina doesn’t have the most American alligators in the country, there are still about 100,000 across the state. These alligators are aggressive, although they rarely attack humans. Still, you can see alligators in popular lakes like Lake Marion, Hilton Head Island, and Lake Moultrie. Swimming is limited in Lake Moultrie, the third-largest lake in the state, because of recent alligator attacks and sightings.

Largest Alligators

American alligators grow throughout their lives and the average male reaches a length of 11.2 feet.


The History of Alligator Attacks in South Carolina

The history of fatal alligator attacks in South Carolina hasn’t been tracked well. However, the first recorded fatal alligator attack happened on July 29, 2016. Bonnie Walker, a 90-year-old female, was found dead in a retention pond near Brookdale Senior Living Center in Charleston, South Carolina. Two years later, Cassandra Cline, a 45-year-old woman was walking her dog in Sea Pines in Hilton Head, South Carolina. According to witnesses, on August 20, 2018, while protecting her dog from an alligator, she was dragged into the water. The next fatal alligator attack happened on May 1, 2020. The victim, Cynthia Covert, a 58-year-old female was dragged into a pond by a large alligator near her home in Salt Cedar Lane, Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

Why Were Alligator Attacks in South Carolina On the Rise in 2022?

In 2022, there were five reported alligator attacks, two of which were fatal. One of these attacks occurred on June 24, 2022, when a gator dragged 75-year-old Michael Burstein into a pond in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. His body was later found and coroners confirmed that he died from drowning.

Although this spike in alligator attacks may feel disheartening, the gator population is not getting out of hand. Instead, many people are moving to South Carolina, specifically the Myrtle Beach/Hilton Head area. They interact with alligators by going into their environment. This has desensitized American alligators to humans, leading to more attacks.


Alligators are camouflaged in murky water.

©Danita Delimont/Shutterstock.com

What to Do if You Spot an Alligator in the Wild

American alligators are apex predators. They can weigh over 1,000 pounds and reach lengths of 15 feet. Still, alligators are more afraid of you than we are afraid of them. American alligators avoid humans whenever possible, but when they feel threatened or they are very hungry, an alligator will attack. Most of the time, if you see an alligator in the wild, you don’t have to react. Instead, they will leave on their own.

However, don’t get closer to an alligator if you can avoid it. If you are swimming and see an alligator in the same body of water, back away slowly. Try to remain as quiet as possible and keep your eyes on the alligator so you don’t lose sight of their position. If you’re attacked, fight back as much as possible. Don’t play dead and stop moving, since this tactic will not stop an alligator from biting down.

The Largest Alligator Caught in South Carolina

South Carolina has recorded some impressively large alligators. For example, the largest alligator caught in South Carolina weighed 1,025 pounds and was 13 feet and 6 inches long. On September 15, 2010, Maryellen Mara-Christian and her husband Mark caught this massive gator in Lake Moultrie. It took about two hours to hunt and kill the large gator. Maryellen and her husband harvested 40 pounds of edible meat. Most alligators stop growing between 10 to 12 feet long. However, one of the largest alligators caught in the United States was 19 feet long.

Alligator Lifespan - Alligator front view

Mature alligators have 80 cone-shaped teeth and if they lose a tooth, it grows back.


The Most Alligator Infested State in the United States of America

While South Carolina is crawling with alligators, it’s not the most alligator infested state in the United States. Instead, that record goes to Louisiana, although Florida closely follows. There are over two million alligators in Louisiana. Most of them live in coastal marshes, but you can find them all throughout the state in lakes, rivers, and ponds. Always assume there are alligators in a body of water while visiting Louisiana. The largest alligator caught in the United States was caught in Louisiana. Scientists estimate that it may have weighed up to 2,000 pounds, although it was never officially weighed.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/CoinUp

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About the Author

Nixza Gonzalez is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics like travel, geography, plants, and marine animals. She has over six years of experience as a content writer and holds an Associate of Arts Degree. A resident of Florida, Nixza loves spending time outdoors exploring state parks and tending to her container garden.

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